LONDON — The gender barrier in one of England's oldest sporting events was broken Saturday when the men's and women's rowing crews from Oxford and Cambridge raced over the same course on the same day for the first time.
By the end of a historic afternoon for the inter-university rivalry, it was Oxford's crews who were celebrating.
Oxford's women won by 6 1/2 lengths for a 12th victory in 16 years and the men followed it up less than an hour later with a 6-length win, along the same stretch of the River Thames in southwest London.
The women's races had been staged on a straight, calmer 1.2-mile strip of the Thames at nearby Henley, with no television coverage and little publicity. This time, the waters were choppier, the course was 3 1/2 times longer and an estimated 270,000 spectators were there to watch.
"To pull something off like that is amazing," Oxford women's president Anastasia Chitty said. "To row on the same stage as the men, there were so many women before us who have never had this opportunity and it's extremely humbling."
One of Oxford's crew members was Caryn Davies, who has won two Olympic gold medals as well as a silver in the United States' women's eight, making her the most decorated Olympian ever to appear in the race.
"I'm just proud and honored to have such attention," said Davies, the oldest rower in either race at 32. "It shows how excited people are and I'm so glad we can be role models to young women everywhere."
When asked how it compared to her Olympic experiences, Davies said: "I think that's harder, I've got to be honest. There was almost three times as long to suffer. But there's always less suffering when you win."
Cambridge's lead in the women's series was cut to 40-30.
Oxford's men took an early lead and were never threatened as they won for a third straight year. They reduced the deficit in their series against Cambridge to 81-79.
All content copyright ©2015 Daily Journal, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.